When I first started seeing a therapist again after my miscarriage in 2017, I knew that my oldest daughter would want to know where I was going on those Saturday afternoons or weekday evenings.
I could have lied and said I was going out with friends or running to the grocery store, but what good does that really do? None if you ask me. So instead, I approached her questions with honest, age-appropriate answers so she could (hopefully) understand what Mommy was doing during her time away from home.
Now, over four years later, I still attend weekly therapy sessions and see a psychiatrist several times per year. My children are obviously older now, which means they more fully understand the concept of therapy and medications.
Regardless, my kids still know that I see a therapist, and I willingly answer any questions they have about therapy and my sessions.
Some people may scoff at the idea of telling young children about therapy, but I think that it’s important. In fact, there are several reasons why I want my kids to know that I see a therapist.
First and foremost, I want my children to see mental health treatment normalized.
When I first required therapy and psychiatric care as a teen, I felt like there was something wrong with me. Nobody in my family discussed mental health, and I didn’t know anyone else in therapy.
What’s more, my family would even use words like “normal” and “different” when discussing my mental health, which only made me feel even worse. I didn’t realize just how many people deal with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions until my 20s. And by that point many of my negative self-appraisals surrounding my mental health were deeply ingrained in my mind.
When my kids were born, though, I vowed to do things differently. Instead of sweeping my own mental illnesses and treatment under the rug, I share them with my kids in age-appropriate ways.
I want my children to know that it’s okay to ask for help if they need it. And I hope that by normalizing my own treatment, they can see that going to a therapist is just as important and normal as seeing your primary care doctor.
I want them to know that there are professionals out there who are trained to help them with anything they encounter during life, and these resources are valuable and should be utilized.
I also want my kids to know how important personal growth is.
I’m far from perfect, and I willingly admit my mistakes to my children. I often tell my kids that I’m “a work in progress” and that we can all work on ourselves during any point in our lives. Sometimes we can do the work on our own, but sometimes a little help from a trained professional can do wonders for our growth as well.
When my children ask what I do in therapy, I show them some of the worksheets and assignments that pertain to my growth and development. I explain to them as best as I can what I’m working toward and how these assignments will ultimately help me become a better version of myself.
In other words, I want my kids to see that I’m committed to being not only the best possible mother, but the best possible person I can be too.
And, most importantly, I want my kids to see me prioritize my needs.
Oftentimes moms are portrayed as selfless martyrs who give themselves entirely without any concern for their own physical or mental health. This “Super Mom” mentality only hurts children as they grow up, especially if they’re girls. Kids then see that they will only be accepted and loved if they sacrifice their own needs for everyone else, and that’s not healthy or sustainable.
When mothers normalize self-care and prioritize their mental health, they start to break down these negative societal norms that we’ve all come to accept.
Instead, we show our children that their own health and happiness should always come first, no matter what. This can help them become more confident and assertive. Also, it will ultimately help them improve their mental health as adults because they will take the time to put their own needs first.
So, yes, my kids know that I see a therapist, and I’m glad they do.
I realize that my perspective is a bit outside the norm. But after almost 34 years of life, I’ve learned that I’m much happier when I’m breaking down and pushing back on societal expectations.
I can honestly say that therapy has done wonders for me over the past several years, and I want to make sure my children have a front-row seat to my journey.
After all, it’s my job as a mother to teach them everything I can about life before they “leave the nest.” And I firmly believe one of the most important things I can teach them is the importance of therapy and mental wellness.
Previously published on The Mighty.